It seems like whenever the subject of free will comes up among religionists — especially Christian religionists — someone chimes in with some variation of this old chestnut: “Free will is not free!” (When Mormons use it they sometimes say “Free agency is not free” but the intent is the same.)
I disagree. I think that our free will is not only free, it is inescapable. In other words, I think that free will in the libertarian sense is entailed by sentience. As far as I can tell, you can’t have one without the other.
Now this is an assumption upon which a lot of theology rests so if there are good reasons why I shouldn’t assume free will is entailed by sentience I’d like to hear about them. As an aside — I do believe that there are likely degrees of sentience and thus degrees of free will but I suspect that is a subject that ought to be fleshed out further (perhaps in a future post).
Scriptures on agency
There are some scriptures that indicate that the atonement makes us free. However, I am convinced that most of those scriptural passages are not referring to the philosophical doctrine of free will but rather the more narrow freedom that we are granted to choose to become one with God as a result of his grace and atonement. To put it in another way, we are only free to choose to become at-one with God or not (and secondarily with our spouses and families) because God has gracious invited us to become at-one with him. This is what the at-one-ment is all about and I completely agree with Blake Ostler on that front. So because of the atonement we are specifically free to choose eternal life. If there were no atonement and God was not graciously inviting us into his loving embrace we would still have free will but we would not be free to choose oneness with God because he would not be offering that oneness to us.
And lest anyone argue that our free will started when we arrived on earth, we do have this scripture that seems to indicate otherwise:
36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devilâ€”for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; (D&C 29:36)
So what do you think? Is free will free or not and why?
[Associated Radio Thang songs: The Housemartins - Freedom; and Special AKA - Free Nelson Mandela]